Overview: Selecting and Using Recovery Potential Indicators
Because choice of the most relevant indicators is crucial to the quality of RPS Tool results, reading about available indicators is always recommended before any RPS project begins. This section of the website contains reference materials on recovery potential indicators: their use in the RPS Tool, definitions, relevance to restorability, data sources, measurement methods and relevant points from the technical literature. On this webpage, its tabbed sub-pages and attachments, you will find indicator information at different levels of detail. Available options include simple lists of indicators in each of the major categories; indicators with definitions, measurement methods and brief descriptions of their relevance to watershed condition; and detailed indicator reference sheets for the most frequently used indicators.
Major Categories of Indicators. Restoration research and practice have shown that many, very diverse factors can affect watershed condition and the likelihood of restoration success. These are grouped into three major categories -- Ecological, Stressor and Social – for use in the RPS Tool. A fourth category, called Base Indicators, contains metrics such as watershed ID numbers, watershed size or total stream mileage that are value-neutral in RPS assessments and do not affect RPS index scores. An RPS screening run must have at least one indicator (preferably more) from all four categories in order for the RPS Tool to work properly.
See the Tabs for any of these four categories for more information.
Sub-Categories and their Importance. Selecting indicators in each major category is influenced by the need to choose metrics that provide different 'pieces of the puzzle.' Using different types of indicators that are all related to restorability can provide multiple lines of evidence for estimating recovery potential. Sub-categories of the Ecological, Stressor and Social categories are provided below to encourage a diverse selection of indicators under each category. An effort should be made to measure indicators that are not all related to the same sub-category. For example, ecological indicator selection should include more than just measurements of watershed land cover. It may not be possible to address all sub-categories if data sources from every sub-category aren’t available, but the selection of indicators should try to include as many as are feasible.
Clicking on each sub-category below brings up several related indicators as examples. Clicking on an indicator name then brings up a short definition and description of its relevance to watershed condition.
Key sub-categories for ecological indicator selection include:
- Watershed natural structure
- Corridor and shorelands stability
- Flow and channel dynamics
- Biotic community integrity
- Aquatic connectivity
- Ecological history
Key sub-categories for stressor indicator selection include:
- Watershed-level disturbance
- Corridor or shorelands disturbance
- Hydrologic alteration
- Biotic or climatic risks
- Severity of pollutant loading
- Legacy of past, trajectory of future land use